Thursday, October 13, 2011

3D maps in your browser with Google Maps and WebGL

We just launched a very cool technology preview of something that we've been working on for some time: MapsGL. If you have a modern browser and computer, give it a whirl and try out our new 3D vector-based maps right in your web browser!

Some highlights to look out for:

  • Full 3D buildings, with perspective rendering, warm sun highlights and cool shadows, and realistic shadow casting depending on the time of day
  • Faster and smoother transitions into streetview, now animated with a cool swoop effect
  • Beautiful transitions between imagery, especially when transitioning from top-down to 45 degrees, and when rotating the map

See the difference here in San Francisco with the new MapsGL rendering (top) vs the old static rendering (bottom):

Some nice comments so far:

“All that work to build 3D graphics into the Web just bore fruit on one of the Internet's most useful and widely used sites: Google Maps... Google is creating a virtual reconstruction of the world in 3D, and this is a big step on the way..” -- Stephen Shankland, CNET

“...the Google Maps experience with WebGL is far more in tune with the highly detailed visuals found in the company’s Google Earth application.” -- Tom Cheredar, VentureBeat

"Google provided a sneak peak into the future of Google Maps, in the process showcasing the future of plug-in-free 3-D graphics for the Web." -- David Carr, Information Week

"The coolest part, though, is the addition of 3D buildings to many towns and cities. Not only do they look awesome, but it's helpful to know where actual buildings are on a street..." -- Whitson Gordon, Lifehacker

“Great idea!” ... “This is sweet!” ... “It’s like I’m there… Hello poor man’s free vacation!” -- Comments from the article on Mashable

“Here's what cool: 3D buildings in Google Maps GL are casting shadows based on the current position of the sun, at that location.” ... “Very Cool! Good Stuff.” -- Comments from the article on The Next Web

More details in the blog post on the Official Google blog...

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